Central States Pension Fund: $18.2 billion

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 11:44

April 15, 2014: The Central States Pension third quarter 2013 financial report shows that assets increased to $18.2 billion, due to the run-up of the stock market last year.

The fund made 12.2% return on investment for the first nine months of 2013, which explains the growth in assets. The report indicates that the fund has 63,000 active participants and 210,000 retirees.

This information is contained in the Financial and Analytical Report and the Independent Special Counsel Report for the 3rd quarter of 2013. No year-end report is yet available. TDU will make it available to members as soon as it issues.

The report reveals that the Teamster Union’s appointed Trustees to the Central States Board are supporting legislation to allow the fund to cut the pensions of existing retirees and Teamsters who have earned their pensions (see pgs 4-5 of the Independent Special Counsel Report).

We call upon the union trustees, who are 50% of the board, to reverse that stand and defend our pensions. The pension fund should be in the forefront of mobilizing the power of our union to defend pensions, not waving the white flag.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union, AARP, the Pension Rights Center, various unions, and also the International Union are against this proposed legislation. We are working to create positive alternatives, before resorting to slashing the pensions of retirees. Our goal is to kill this legislation and work with allies for better alternatives, and to build a movement to defend pensions.

The Teamsters Union could put thousands of retirees and Teamsters on the streets in Washington, and broaden the issues to defend pensions in this country that are under corporate attack.

If you want to learn more or join the movement to defend pensions, click here.

The Financial and Analytical Report also details the finances of the Central States Health and Welfare Fund, which is in healthy shape and operating in the black. It now has 20 months of reserves on hand. It has 82,500 active participants and 8,400 retirees.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

New York TDU Bowl-a-thon

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 08:45

New York TDU Bowl-a-Thon

Saturday, May 3, 2014

AMF 34th Avenue Lanes, Queens, NY

The New York TDU Chapter is hosting a Bowl-a-Thon to build solidarity and raise funds for rank-and-file reform and grassroots union democracy.

Click here to find out how you can participate and help make this event a success.

Issues: NY-NJ TDU
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Thought Secure, Pooled Pensions Teeter and Fall

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 08:17
Mary Williams WalshThe New York TimesApril 14, 2014View the original piece

The pensions of millions of Americans are being threatened because of trouble in a part of the retirement world long considered so safe that no one gave it a second thought.

The pensions belong to people in multiemployer plans — big pooled investment funds with many sponsoring companies and a union. Multiemployer pensions are not only backed by federal insurance, but they also were thought to be even more secure than single-company pensions because when one company in a multiemployer pool failed, the others were required to pick up its “orphaned” retirees.

Today, however, the aging of the work force, the decline of unions, deregulation and two big stock crashes have taken a grievous toll on multiemployer pensions, which cover 10 million Americans. Dozens of multiemployer plans have already failed, and some giant ones are teetering — including, notably, the Teamsters’ Central States pension plan, with more than 400,000 members.

In February, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal multiemployer insurer would run out of money in seven years, which would leave retirees in failed plans with nothing.

“Unless Congress acts — and acts very soon — many plans will fail, more than one million people will lose their pensions, and thousands of small businesses will be handed bills they can’t pay,” said Joshua Gotbaum, executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal insurer that pays benefits to people whose company pension plans fail.

“If Congress allows the P.B.G.C. to get the money and the authority it needs to do its job, then these plans can be preserved,” he added. “If not, the P.B.G.C. will run out of money, too, and multiemployer pensioners will get virtually nothing. This is not something that can wait a few years. If people kick the can down the road, they’ll find it went off a cliff.”

So far, efforts to keep multiemployer plans from toppling, and taking the federal insurance program down with them, are giving rise to something that was supposed to have been outlawed 40 years ago: cuts in benefits that workers have already earned.

For example, after Carol Cascio’s husband died of a heart attack at 52, the pension office of his union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, told her his 33 years as a supermarket meat manager had earned her a widow’s pension of $402.31 a month for life. It would start in three years, on what would have been his 55th birthday.

She waited, but just before her first payment should have come, she received a letter instead saying that the pension plan had been “terminated by mass withdrawal” and that she would receive nothing.

“Now I’m in a real pickle,” said Ms. Cascio, 62, a stay-at-home mother in Brooklyn who had already borrowed against the promised pension to pay for her daughter’s education. “I have no one. I have a mortgage on my house. I have my daughter. How do you do this to someone?”

“Only a few years ago, it would have been inconceivable that anyone would have their benefits reduced,” said Karen W. Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center, a watchdog group in Washington. “The law hasn’t caught up with what’s happening here.”

The law she was referring to is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or Erisa, the landmark federal employee-benefits law enacted in 1974. It contains a well-established provision known as the anticutback rule, which holds that companies can freeze their pension plans at will, stopping their workers from building up any additional benefits, but they cannot renege on benefits their workers have earned through work already performed.

In the multiemployer world, the anticutback rule was amended in 2006, permitting the weakest plans to stop paying certain benefits to people who had not yet retired, including disability stipends, lump-sum distributions, recent pension increases, death benefits and early retirement benefits. The goal was to help those plans conserve their money while they try to rehabilitate themselves. Experts say the measures have helped, but some multiemployer plans may still fail if they cannot cut payments to retirees as well.

Ms. Cascio’s pension turned out to be in a category subject to cutting: pensions for widows whose husbands died before retirement. They must be cut if their plans have fallen to “critical status,” defined as having less than 65 cents for every dollar of benefits they owe. That is supposed to save money so the plan can keep on paying other retirees their “nonforfeitable benefits” while it negotiates bigger contributions from participating companies, or tries to attract new companies into the pool.

That could not happen in Ms. Cascio’s case. A few months before her husband died, all the supermarkets in his plan decided to disband the pool. He told her not to worry. Each company was making a final contribution to what is known as a “wasting trust,” which would have enough money to pay everyone’s pensions for the rest of their lives. Then the stock market crashed in 2008. Much of the money in the pool melted away, and there was no one left to turn to for more.

“I manage on a widow’s Social Security,” said Ms. Cascio, who receives a little less than $900 a month after her Medicarepremiums are deducted. “It’s been hard.”

Her house, in Gerritsen Beach, was flooded by Hurricane Sandy, and she scraped along for eight weeks that winter without heat, electricity or hot water. Some days, she sat for hours on a city bus, just to keep warm.

Congress made the multiemployer insurance much less comprehensive than the single-employer version because multiemployer plans were supposedly so safe they did not need much insurance.

The P.B.G.C. is supposed to be self-supporting, financing its operations with premiums paid by companies rather than tax dollars. Its single-employer program has the power to take over company pension funds before they run out of money so the assets can be used to help defray the costs. But the multiemployer program must wait until a failing plan’s investments are exhausted, so it gets nothing but bills. It now has premiums of about $110 million a year to work with. All it would take is the failure of one big plan to wipe out the whole program.

The Central States plan, for example, pays $2.8 billion a year to retirees but takes in only about $700 million from employers. It must rely on investment returns to keep from exhausting its assets, but Thomas C. Nyhan, director of the pension plan, said it would take returns of at least 12 percent a year, every year, to come out even, and that is not realistic. Its modeling suggests it will run out of money in 10 to 15 years — most likely around 2026, if nothing is done.

Labor officials, business groups, members of Congress and others have been quietly discussing a proposal to extend multiemployer plans’ life spans by letting them roll back even retirees’ pensions. Such plans are often found in mature sectors, in which retirees outnumber active workers and cuts affecting only the existing workers do not produce enough of a saving as a result. And once a multiemployer plan gets to that stage, officials have discovered, new companies will not join the pool, because they do not want to be stuck paying for extinct companies’ orphaned retirees.

“Arithmetic is going to trump everything here,” said Mr. Nyhan of the Central States plan, which has about five retirees for every current driver.

The Central States plan achieved lasting notoriety in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was run as a virtual bank for organized crime; even today, it still operates under federal court supervision. But today its problems are radically different. First, it lost so much money in the dot-com rout that its supervising judge gave permission to start reducing some benefits as early as 2003. Then, in 2007, it lost its biggest company, United Parcel Service, which paid $6.1 billion to leave the pool. The payment was supposed to cover U.P.S.’s share of the plan’s total shortfall forever, but the shortfall grew by billions of dollars in 2008, when the market crashed and U.P.S. was no longer around to help.

That left a much bigger shortfall to be divided among a smaller pool of employers. George Kerver found that out the hard way. He is president of Fastdecks, a company near Detroit that makes big concrete beams and pillars for construction sites. For years, Fastdecks had one part-time Teamster on the payroll, earning a small pension from Central States. But business slowed to a creep, and in 2011 the lone Teamster resigned, saying he needed a job with more hours.

By law, that meant Fastdecks had to pay a withdrawal liability, just as U.P.S. did. But by 2011 the math was worse. Fastdecks received a bill for $465,774, its pro rata share of the fund’s enlarged $22 billion shortfall.

“We didn’t think we should have to pay it, because we weren’t planning on leaving the union,” Mr. Kerver said, noting that he started as a laborer at Fastdecks 37 years ago and still employs union carpenters and laborers. His lawyers told him if he did not pay, the bill would snowball by accruing penalties and interest.

“What are we supposed to do?” he said. “That was our retirement. Now we owe everything to the Teamster fund.” Bankruptcy was not an option, so he arranged a 20-year payment plan with Central States.

“They lost a union company,” he said, “because we’re never going to have another Teamster again.”

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

With Solidarity in Spades, Vermont Bus Drivers’ 18-Day Strike Results in Big Win

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 08:16
Jonathan LeavittIn These TimesApril 14, 2014View the original piece

At 6am on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, 40 bus drivers and a dozen community members defied negative-10-degree weather to picket outside the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) bus garage in Burlington, Vt. The action marked the beginning of nearly three-week-long transit strike over concessionary contract demands that would capture the imagination of much of Vermont and culminate in victory.

“Management misjudged us,” said CCTA driver Jim Fouts, speaking to In These Times from the impromptu victory rally on April 3. “We don’t drive together, we don’t have a lunch room to eat together,” said Fouts. But on the picket line, he says, “we turned into icicles together and we started to get to know one another.”

After months of failed negotiations and working without a contract since June 30 of last year,drivers voted 54-0 on March 12th to reject CCTA management’s final contract offer. Drivers could not stomach monitoring and disciplinary procedures that they saw as “abusive," such as being tailed by supervisors, reviewed via bus videotapes, and suspension of as long as a month. The added demand that drivers work eight hours over the course of an exhausting 13.5-hour “split shift,” which could be extended through forced overtime to 15 hours, sparked concerns among bus drivers and community members that CCTA management’s demands riskedcommunity safety.” 

A new generation of strikers

St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Monday, a school day, and the temperature was negative 5 degrees, but at 7a.m., a steady stream of parents dropped off their students to march the picket line. Seventy-one Burlington High School (BHS) students walked the proverbial mile in another’s shoes, shoulder to shoulder with their bus drivers in a show of solidarity that harkens back to a much older, bolder labor movement. The students accompanied the bus drivers every foot of the circuitous 2.3-mile bus route from the Cherry Street picket line to the front office of the high school, where administrators greeted the students with applause and excused absences. The handmade signs students carried would paper the lobby for the duration of the strike.

“This is Vermont, and even record cold temperatures cannot keep us away from supporting the workers of our state,” says Sabine Rogers, a senior at BHS. “Students showed how much they support fair working conditions and how much they support the work that you bus drivers do each and every day.” 

“As we started to walk, we went from a fairly quiet group to chanting with a bullhorn and really getting into it,” says BHS senior Henry Prine. “One quiet student told me he doesn’t like loud noises or large crowd, but it was such an incredible experience. He fell in love with organizing in that moment.”

Prine detailed the prefigurative movement-building BHS students did before the strike. Through his student delegate position on the school board, Prine convinced the body to pass a resolution stating the school district would not hire scab bus drivers to cross picket lines. Prine says that as negotiations broke down and a strike appeared imminent, he began talking with other seniors ("and underclassmen too") about ways BHS students could take an even more powerful public stand. The students drafted a petition calling on CCTA management to meet the drivers’ demands, and Mayor Weinberger and the Burlington City Council to support the bus drivers.” According to Prine, the petition drew more than 500 signatures in one day’s time. “That’s more signatures than people get to keep the hockey program,” he says.

This petition would be presented to Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger in a March 10 City Council meeting by ten BHS student organizers. Weinberger and his City Council allies had earned a reputation as anti-labor for gutting Burlington’s Livable Wage Ordinance despite popular support for policies to reduce the growing disparity of wealth.

Rogers, motivated by her experience on the strike line, would build out a student carpool in solidarity with drivers, using some dusty ward maps to collectivize students’ overlapping routes to school. In the strike’s final week, students organized teachers to host bus drivers in their classes. Striking drivers presented labor history and origin story of their job action to 80 students in four classes in the three days leading up to the strike settlement.

Rogers believes the experience transformed a culture of alienation at her school. “The solidarity and community and sense of activism that has been such a big player in this whole past few weeks—I definitely see that continuing as part of the atmosphere at BHS,” she says. 

‘This is the movement of the people’ 

Nine days into the strike, the drivers would face a massively heavy lift. With the backing of Mayor Weinberger, eight of the 14 members of Burlington's City Council co-sponsored a resolution calling for the contract negotiations to enter “binding arbitration.”

According to a statement in responde to the resultion by the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals (a local of AFT Vermont), binding arbitration decreases the likelihood of a favorable outcome for workers and communities by placing “all decision-making in the hands of a third party, someone with no relationship to the workplace or community directly affected by his or her decision” and who is not accountable for the results.

To speak against binding arbitration, 150 drivers and supporters marched upon the City Council's March 26 meeting, chanting “We are the union, the mighty, mighty union!" After they filed into the chamber, City Council President Joan Shannon informed the crowd that the customary public comment period at the beginning of the meeting would be delayed by a special executive session. At that point, the entire driver solidarity march assembled outside the chamber door and unleashed perhaps the most boisterous rally City Hall has ever seen.

The hallway and steps leading to City Hall’s second floor and the Mayor’s office were suffused with swelling throng of students, members of United Electric (UE), the Vermont Workers’ Center, the Vermont State Employees Association, Vermont National Education Assocaition (Vermont NEA), the newly formed Vermont Homecare United (a local of ASFCME) and many bus drivers. Loud applause and chants of "What do we want? Fair Contract! When do we want it? Now!" resounded in hallway’s marble and into the City Council chamber in a scene many would compare to the 2011 occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol by pro-union protesters.

"Where is the freedom? Where is the chance?” bus driver Noor Ibrahim, an immigrant from Somalia, asked the impromptu rally. “I was told there is a chance here in this country. Where is the right of the poor people? [CCTA management] are misusing the money of the taxpayers. From now on we have this strike as experience, we don’t need to back down.”

Noor detailed how three years ago his wife was pregnant and “the doctor said the baby wasn’t moving.” He set up an appointment on his day off so he could support his wife, even filling out the vacation paperwork as an extra precaution. Less than 24 hours before the appointment, he said, CCTA’s management told him he would have to work. “When I asked them, they said ‘We don’t care about you, we don’t care about your family all we care about is the bus moving,’ " said Noor.

As drivers continued telling personal stories like these and the raucous rally spilled over intopublic comment, two of the eight resolution sponsors, Karen Paul and Tom Ayres, pulled their names off. Councilor  Paul was evidently moved by the driver’s stories; she introduced a successful amendment to “remove the resolution from the agenda” entirely, adding, “I’ve learned a great deal tonight. If we go forward with the agenda, I’ll remove my name from the resolution.” By the council meeting’s denouement, the focus had shifted from binding arbitration to a discussion led by progressive councilors of whether or not to sanction CCTA management.

“This is the movement of the people,” Nigerian CCTA driver Ade Fajobi told In These Times. “The voice of everybody changed the votes of City Council.”

‘Every step you take on your picket line is our step’

On Saturday, March 29, the 12th day of the strike, an all-night, 18-hour negotiation session broke down, yet again, over CCTA management’s demand to increase drivers’ split-shifts 12.5 to 13.5 hours. “They basically tossed the same pile of dung back in our faces,” said Jim Fouts. In response, hundreds of supporters gathered at Burlington City Hall, beneath a 12-foot wide bright blue banner reading “Work With Dignity” and “Fair Contract Now.” A massive University of Vermont (UVM) feeder march and brass band joined, and Vermont residents lent their voices to the drivers’ cause.

“By using your right to strike, you're creating a stronger movement of workers,” said Amy Lester, a member of Vermont NEA and the vice-president of the Vermont Workers’ Center. “Your strength is our strength. Your courage is our courage. Your momentum is our momentum. Every step you take on your picket line is our step. We all have your back, keep fighting and don’t give up.” 

To loud applause, FaRied Munarsyah, a Workers’ Center member and 20-year CCTA rider, called for “temporary replacement managers.” Michelle Gałecki of UVM’s Student Climate Culture said, “Livable jobs and public transportation is a green issue, but it’s also a human rights issue.” 

“We have been swallowing this pain for the last ten years,” said Noor Ibrahim, from the steps of City Hall, with dozens of CCTA bus drivers behind him. “We cannot live in this hostile environment. We deserve respect.” 

Just days later, after threatening picket line-crossing scab drivers, CCTA management would finally capitulate. CCTA agreed to a contract with language limiting monitoring and discipline, reducing "forced overtime" to 13.5 hours a day instead of 15, and maintaining drivers’ split shifts at the current 12.5 hours. Though drivers conceded an increase from 13 to 15 part-time drivers, the union was able to win language preventing CCTA from using retirement or termination to reduce the entire bargaining unit slowly to part-time status. On April 3, inside the local VFW’s Eddie Laplant ballroom, drivers voted 53-6 to adopt the new contract.

 A growing movement for work with dignity

According to James Haslam, director of the Vermont Workers Center, "In the current context of the attack on public transit, the public sector and the labor movement nationally, this is a tremendous victory for work with dignity that benefits all working people in the long haul.”

Indeed, the solidarity unionism that blossomed in Vermont’s late-winter snow could be—like the Chicago Teachers UnionPortland Teachers Union or Boeing Machinists—another harbinger of rebirth for rank-and-file reform movements buttressed by community solidarity.

The successful 18-day job action “really shows what happens when a few people speak out and continue to speak out towards a common goal of having a strong union,” said driver Jim Fouts in the bus terminal, in the afterglow of the victory celebration. “When I first came here the union was weak, because it was a business-as-usual union. Then some activists started saying, ‘This is wrong. We can vote on things. This is supposed to be a democracy.’ And really it was a bottom up movement to change our union.” 

According to former drivers Chuck Norris-Brown and Scott Ranney, a reform caucus with the local solidified over breakfasts in local restaurants in the spring of 2009, around a petition circulated amongst drivers that helped win stewards elected by drivers, not merely appointed by Teamsters higher-ups. The caucus, nicknamed the Sunday Breakfast Club, soon began coordinating with Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a national, independent rank-and-file movement within the Teamsters. In 2011 contract negotiations, Breakfast Club members did the shopfloor organizing and the local outreach to community members and other unions to build public support. "A seed was sown which kept the Teamster Local to the grindstone, and almost all of the community action that resulted in major support for the recent drivers strike was based on earlier Sunday Breakfast Club contacts and strategies," says Ranney, who also believes the caucus empowered rank-and-file members and paved the way for the unanimous rejection of the concessionary contract.

Tearing up, Fouts describes how Local 597 followed the advice of a Labor Notes organizer Ellen David Freidman, to build power and beat back concessions: “ ‘Turn enemies into neutrals, you turn neutrals into activists and you turn activists into leaders,’ ” he quotes. “That’s what we did.”

"We won this fair contract because of our unity and the tremendous support from our community,” says Rob Slingerland, CCTA bus driver and spokesperson for the drivers.

Many drivers, even in the midst of the victory party, said they’d already begun reciprocating the solidarity unionism they experienced from other unions during their strikes. “We were talking about solidarity with other unions before we even went over our contract today,” says Slingerland. He says that drivers have already volunteered to join marches on the boss at Vermont's HowardCenter, a counseling and medical-services center where workers are in the process of unionizing with AFSCME. “We got the help and now we’ve got to give the help," he says. "Vermont is so small, but this movement is so big."

Slingerland described an “umbrella of fear,” his co-workers used to work under and how the victorious strike changed workplace power relations and gave drivers a sense of dignity. “A lot of drivers have discovered the power that they have within as a person,” said Slingerland, “you put that together as a group and you end where we are today, with a victory.”

Issues: Bus Drivers
Categories: Labor News, Unions

URGENT PHONE/E-MAIL BLAST! Help the Citizens Co-op Workers Union!

IWW - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 08:02

At this time the Citizens Co-op Workers Union is asking all supportive Co-op Members and Concerned Community Members to call and email management to express your feelings, comments and questions about the unfair labor practices and termination of 5 union workers. We want your voices heard and for you to hear the explanations for their actions!

read more

Categories: Unions

Drivers Win $2.2 Million in Calif. Contractor Status Case

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 07:12
Rip WatsonTransport TopicsApril 11, 2014View the original piece

A California state agency has ruled that seven drivers for Pacer International Inc. who challenged their status as independent contractors can collect $2.21 million.

The Department of Labor Standards Enforcement ruled the drivers were company employees, rather than independent contractors. Pacer, which recently became part of XPO Logistics, has filed a notice of appeal.

The case is the latest development in an ongoing battle over the status of truck drivers, who are independent contractors from the carriers’ standpoint.

Don Minchey, the hearing officer in the case, wrote “the plaintiffs are convincing in their arguments.”

Drivers’ independent contractor status is being challenged by union organizers, in Southern California and other locations, who are seeking employee status so that organizing campaigns can advance.

“We are aware of the rulings by the administrative hearing officer in the seven claims,” an XPO spokesman told Transport Topics. “These cases are ongoing and we have appealed the rulings to California Superior Court. We intend to vigorously oppose these claims, which we believe are without merit.”

Issues: Freight
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Big Brown Waves White Flag

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 07:09
Jane SlaughterLabor NotesApril 11, 2014View the original piece

In the wake of a relentless grassroots labor-community solidarity campaign, UPS waved the white flag and agreed to rehire all 250 New York City drivers the company fired last month. The campaign united drivers, elected officials, and even UPS customers.

UPS issued termination notices to 250 drivers in March for a 90-minute work stoppage they had carried out on February 26.

Jairo Reyes, a 24-year driver, had been fired for starting work too early, and was walked off the job. This violated the Teamsters’ contract, which called for a 72-hour waiting period and a hearing before a worker could be walked off.

Drivers gathered in the parking lot to show their displeasure. “Our contract had been violated so many times,” Reyes told Labor Notes. “This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Reyes will also return to work, under the terms of the agreement struck between UPS andTeamsters Local 804 yesterday.

UPS had previously vowed never to back down. The company refused to negotiate with Local 804 and told the press it would boot all 250 drivers as soon as replacements were trained.

At first management seemed to make good on that threat. The first 20 workers were fired on March 31, at the end of their last work day of the month so that they and their families would lose their April health care coverage.

Four days later, UPS fired 16 more drivers as their local president prepared to take the stage to speak at the Labor Notes Conference.

But just five days after that, UPS executives from company headquarters in Atlanta were at the table and striking an agreement with the union to return all 250 drivers to work.

What Made Brown Back Down?

Immediately after the walkout, Local 804 leaders met with the company to try to settle the dispute. Managers shut down the talks after minutes and said they were issuing termination notices to all 250 drivers.

So Local 804 launched a grassroots campaign to mobilize public support. First, the union mobilized its own ranks. Stewards and union activists passed out bulletins and petitions to show Teamster solidarity.

But the outreach quickly spread to the public in the form of an online petition launched by the Working Families Party (WFP), a grassroots political party of affiliated unions and community groups, including Teamsters Joint Council 16 in New York.

Local 804 members rallied on March 21 in front of the UPS hub in Maspeth, Queens, and delivered more than 105,000 petition signatures to the company. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and city council members joined the rally. So did Assembly member Michael Simanowitz.

No labor radical, Simanowitz is a moderate Democrat who represents an Orthodox Jewish section of Queens. But he is also a UPS customer. His UPS driver, Domenick “Dedom” Dedomenico, was one of the 250 fired Teamsters—one with a special back story.

Dedom was run over while delivering Christmas packages for UPS. He spent 10 days in a coma and another 13 months recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

When Dedom returned to UPS, he was met with a barrage of warning letters and suspensions for “failing to meet his previous demonstrated performance.”

A supervisor assigned to monitor Dedom for a day reported that customers were slowing him down to welcome him back on the job, and breaking into tears.

Management responded by suspending Dedom and telling him to pick up the pace. Brown’s ultimatum? Deliver one more package per hour or lose your job. Then Dedom became one of the 250 who were issued termination notices.

“He spent a week in a coma, and how does this company repay him when he comes back to work? They fire him because he stood up for his brothers,” said Simanowitz. “This is not over. Dedom is not fired. If he is then I’ll personally lay down in front of that driveway.”

Letitia James grabbed the microphone from Simanowitz and told the rallying Teamsters that UPS had a $43 million contract up for renewal with New York State and, “if UPS does not do right by the workers in this city, then the city will not do right by UPS.”

A hot campaign got a lot hotter. Elected officials began scrutinizing UPS’s financial dealings with the city and state, including a sweetheart deal through the Department of Finance’s stipulated-fine program that cuts UPS’s parking tickets by $15 to $20 million a year.

UPS responded by firing 20 drivers, chosen at random.

Local 804 kicked its campaign up a notch. The union reached out to the press, and the firing of the 250 workers and Dedom, the driver who survived a coma only to be canned by UPS, became tabloid fodder.

Local 804 also reached out to other unions while the Working Families Party galvanized support from elected officials.

On April 3, fired drivers and other Local 804 Teamsters held a press conference on the steps of City Hall with other Teamsters, nurses, bus and train operators from Transport Workers Local 100, members of the Communications Workers and Service Employees 32-BJ, Laborers, and others.

Drivers told their story flanked by more than a dozen elected officials, including Letitia James and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

"I do not understand who at that company put forward a business plan to take away a generation of good will between UPS and the City of New York," Stringer said. “But this is not gonna end this way.”

UPS axed 16 more drivers the following day.

Who Speaks for UPS Customers?

With political pressure and bad PR on the rise, UPS tried to justify the firings as the only responsible business decision.

“We simply cannot allow employee misconduct that jeopardizes our ability to reliably serve our customers,” UPS told the press.

One executive told the Daily News that UPS was firing 250 drivers because “we believe we owe it to our customers.”

The union decided to put the question directly to those customers.

Fired drivers launched a customer outreach campaign. They retraced their routes, passed out leaflets, and talked with customers. Customers posed for photos with the fired drivers with signs that said, "What Can Brown Do for Me? Not This" and "Rehire This Guy."

Steve Curcio was one of the original 20 firees who reached out to customers on his mixed commercial and residential route. “We were going out to customers on the route and asking their honest opinions and reactions to why we were missing,” he said. “Everyone misses their guy, this guy is here every single day. They don't want their business being disrupted.”

Supporters nationwide flooded the corporation with phone calls and bombed the UPS Facebook page.

Customer Lois Toscano from Little Neck called the Local 804 hall to see what she could do. She said her UPS driver—whose name she didn’t know—had once saved her family’s life. As she and her three children drowsily watched TV, Armin Kaeser rang the bell and said, “Mrs. Toscano, I smell gas.”

“At Christmas,” Toscano told the Daily News, “when presents are being delivered, [Kaeser] rings the doorbell first to make sure the kids aren’t around before he hauls everything up to the door.”

Local 804 made a video of customers speaking their minds to UPS. The testimonials were unscripted and heartfelt and shredded the company’s argument that UPS owed the firings to its customers.

“What can Brown do for me? They can give me my driver back,” said Alex Silaco of Tiles Unlimited.

“I know what you mean to my company,” another customer said, “It would be a shame if UPS makes the mistake of letting the drivers go that are important for their customer base.”

Local 804 President Tim Sylvester said the tipping point for the campaign was “customers’ involvement. Management underestimated once again how popular our drivers are with their customers, just like in 1997 [when Teamsters struck for two weeks for full-time jobs].”

Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, the union’s chief negotiator with UPS, had not issued a single public comment or statement of support since February 26—a fact not lost on Local 804 members or union activists at UPS nationwide.

But the day before negotiations with UPS, Hall flew to New York and visited with drivers in Maspeth to offer support to the 250 drivers.

The next day, Local 804 leaders, international union officials, and UPS executives met and hammered out the agreement.

All 250 terminations were reduced to 10-day suspensions. Local 804 will also issue a statement to members outlining the proper union procedures for a walkout.

A Teakettle on a Flame

“The buildup of frustration causes people to do things they wouldn't normally do,” Sylvester said. “You can only put a teakettle on a flame for so long before the lid comes off.”

New York drivers were fed up with long hours, increasing production standards, and constant technological surveillance, Sylvester said. Every UPS truck is equipped with more than 200 sensors that monitor drivers' every move, and drivers are expected to follow 72 pages of “methods,” such as hold the keys in your right hand as you approach your vehicle, start the truck and buckle your seat belt in one motion.

Labor Notes asked Curcio if he was surprised his union would do so much. “I expected at least what they did,” he said. “Something of this magnitude, so severe, that touched so many people—something had to be done.”

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Revealing the Lessons of Ludlow: An Evening Remembering the Ludlow Massacre of 1914

IWW - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 14:53

From the Bread and Roses Workers Cultural Center

Featuring: Way Down in the Hole and The Ludlow Massacre, video documentaries, and comments by union members and Scott Martelle, author of Blood Passion, The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the West.
When: Friday, April 18, 7-10 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café, 2199 California St., Denver
Free Admission
FMI: http://workersbreadandroses.org/ludlow.html

The Ludlow Massacre from the coal miners’ point of view is the theme of an evening program in central Denver on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre.

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Categories: Unions

Louisville UPS Teamsters: 94% say No

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 12:13
April 10, 2014: Louisville UPS Teamsters today voted No on the Louisville Air Supplement by a margin of 2,840 - 185, a whopping 94% No vote. We call upon Hoffa and Hall to change course and back these Teamsters in their righteous stand for contract improvements: more full-time jobs, pay for all time worked, and no concessions on health care benefits. Congratulations to Local 89 members and officers who are united for a good contract.Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Daily News: UPS Backs Down, Rehires 250 Drivers

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 07:03
Ginger Adams OtisNY Daily NewsApril 10, 2014After refusing to back down from its decision to terminate 250 drivers, UPS on Wednesday agreed to give them back their jobs. The Atlanta-based company faced criticism for its stance, but then reached an agreement with the union to re-hire the drivers who work from a depot in Maspeth, Queens. UPS wrapped up its bitter labor dispute with the Teamsters union Wednesday night, putting 250 fired workers back in their drivers’ seats. The accord was struck after Teamsters Local 804 and top UPS executives spent the day negotiating at a Manhattan law firm, sources told the Daily News. The deal rescinds the termination notices given to 250 Queens drivers after they walked out for 90 minutes on Feb. 26 to protest the firing of longtime driver Jairo Reyes, a union activist. Reyes also gets his job back, according to the sources. In return, the union agreed the walkout was “illegal and unauthorized,” said Andy McGowan, media relations director for UPS. “The settlement includes the following actions: IBT Local 804 agrees to compensate UPS for damages associated with the loss of productive employee time, other company costs and the negative impact on goodwill relating to the February 26 unauthorized walkout and related actions,” McGowan said. The union agreed to pay the company undisclosed damages for deliveries missed during the 90-minute walkout. In addition, all the drivers who participated have to serve a short suspension, sources said. "We're looking forward to turning the page and writing a new chapter.  The drivers delivered their message to UPS about unfair treatment. Now every one them will be back delivering packages," said Tim Sylvester, Local 804 President. But the union also maintained that its Feb. 26 action was legal under its contract with UPS. "Under the agreement reached yesterday with UPS, Local 804 acknowledges that the union’s internal procedures for authorizing a strike were not properly followed on Feb. 26 and we have agreed to communicate the proper procedure to all union members," Local 804 said in a statement. "The work stoppage ... was legal under the union contract with UPS." 

The Atlanta-based shipping company had played hardball with Local 804, refusing to back down from its position that it had the right to fire any worker who participated in the work stoppage. UPS had removed 36 workers from the payroll at the Maspeth depot in the past two weeks.

 After negotiations failed last month, the union turned to elected officials and UPS customers for help. Public Advocate Letitia James wrote the company a letter, reminding it that it had a $43 million contract with the state — as well as other perks, including city parking ticket privileges that saved it millions. “Today we are celebrating a victory for working-class New Yorkers. The 250 truck drivers at the UPS facility in Maspeth who were in jeopardy of losing their livelihoods will now have their jobs reinstated,” James said Wednesday night. She thanked those who supported the workers and added “We have sent a clear message to corporate America that firing workers en masse for minor workplace disagreements is unacceptable.” The state Working Families Party also rallied to the union’s cause, launching a petition drive that amassed 100,000 signatures, said Bill Lipton, the party’s state director. "Working Families was proud to support the Teamster members who ran an inspiring, relentless campaign to mobilize hundreds of thousands of supporters to defend 250 workers and their families,” Lipton said. UPS, which employs 6,000 union workers citywide and 16,000 across the state, said it valued its business with New York and hoped to maintain its good relationship. But the company said it couldn’t condone walkouts like the one Feb. 26 because they put its customer relations in jeopardy. Some customers, however, let the company know they didn’t approve of the decision to fire the drivers. “You’re firing 250 drivers/workers and guess what? I’m firing you!! I’m boycotting UPS until these people are rehired!!” customer Rose Mary Rios wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, before the agreement was announced. “Stop firing drivers in retaliation,” wrote Leon Laporte, in one of several dozen messages left in support of the workers. Click here to read the original article at the NY Daily News.Issues: UPSNY-NJ TDU
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Daily News: UPS Backs Down, Rehires 250 Drivers

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 05:47
Ginger OtisDaily NewsApril 10, 2014View the original piece

After refusing to back down from its decision to terminate 250 drivers, UPS on Wednesday agreed to give them back their jobs. The Atlanta-based company faced criticism for its stance, but then reached an agreement with the union to re-hire the drivers who work from a depot in Maspeth, Queens. 

Click here to read the Daily News complete coverage.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Campaign Stops 250 Firings at UPS in New York

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 17:29

April 9, 2014: UPS is rescinding the terminations of all 250 drivers according to a report posted by Teamsters Local 804.

The Union has also won the reinstatement of Jairo Reyes, the 24-year driver whose firing in violation of the grievance procedure led to a 90-minute walkout by Local 804 members on Feb. 26.

The Local 804 website reports that “All the terminations will be reduced to 10-day suspensions.” The union also agreed to pay undisclosed monetary damages to UPS.

When the company refused to come to the table to negotiate a settlement, Local 804 unleashed a community support campaign. 

They collected more than 125,000 signatures on support petitions from Teamster members and public supporters.

Elected officials stood behind the Union and threatened to pull $60 million in contracts and deals that UPS has with the City and State.

Fired drivers reached out to their customers who spoke out on camera and in the press.  UPS was flooded with thousands of phone calls and Facebook messages.

The grassroots mobilization brought UPS back to the table. 

Ken Hall visited with fired drivers at Maspeth on Tuesday and mediated negotiations between Local 804 and the company on Wednesday.

UPS executives had insisted the firings were a done deal. Local 804 members proved otherwise by staying united, taking their case to the public, and mobilizing support. 

For more information, go to www.teamsterslocal804.org

Categories: Labor News, Unions

UPS and Union to Discuss Fate of 250 Queens Drivers

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 05:50


NY Daily News, Ginger Adams Otis

April 9, 2014: UPS and members of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 804 will meet Wednesday to talk about the fate of 250 fired drivers, the Daily News has learned.

The two sides have been at loggerheads since Feb. 26. when a 90-minute walkout prompted the Atlanta-based shipping company to issue termination notices to 250 Queens drivers.

The company and union haven’t spoken since late March. As of this month, 36 drivers have been removed from payroll. The rest will follow as new drivers are trained, a UPS spokesman said.

The company said it has the right to fire employees who engage in illegal walkouts.

The union contends it has the right to walkout when the company doesn’t adhere to proper grievance procedures.

Some UPS customers have come to their drivers’ defense, including Lois Toscano, from Little Neck.

She put in a call to the company’s CEO on Tuesday to tell him about the time her driver, Armin Kaeser, saved her family’s life.

According to Toscano, the UPS driver pulled up to her house on a bitter cold day, when she and her newborn and two toddlers were snuggled inside.

“The house was closed up tight. We were watching TV, and all of us were drowsy, feeling sleepy. He rang the bell, and when I opened the door the first thing he said was, ‘Mrs. Toscano, I smell gas.’”

Turns out her old home was filled with fumes from a leaky pipe, but they crept in so gradually the tired mom didn’t notice.

Now, she’s forever grateful to Kaeser, who like 214 other UPS drivers, is on the chopping block.

“He loves his neighborhood, he always waves when he sees us, he helps the older neighbors get their packages, at Christmas, when presents are being delivered, he rings the doorbell first to make sure the kids aren’t around before he hauls everything up to the door,” she said.

UPS, which employs 6,000 union workers in the city and 16,000 statewide, said the illegal walkout hurt its bottom line.

“UPS takes our service commitments to our customers very seriously. We deliver important packages that include everything from business critical goods to live-saving medicines. We simply cannot allow employee misconduct that jeopardizes our ability to reliably serve our customers and maintain order in our delivery operations,” spokesman Steve Gaut said in a statement.

But for Toscano, at least, UPS is handling the situation all wrong.

“The company should not be firing (Armin) — he’s a poster boy for UPS,” she said.

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Penny Pixler: Loving Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Friend And Fellow Worker

IWW - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 15:42

By the Denver IWW

Penny Lynne-Diane Pixler was born July 9, 1947 to Ivan and Doris (Gardner) Pixler in Spencer, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Psychology in 1969. She also attended George Washington University’s graduate school. Whether she brought her political activism to Washington, D.C. with her or honed it there in the capitol, she actively participated in the anti-Vietnam War movement. After living in Berkeley, Calif. for a time, she moved to Chicago where she continued her activist activities. As a member of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (CWLU), she traveled with one of the first American tourist groups allowed in to China after former President Richard Nixon’s opening of relations in 1972.

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Categories: Unions

Northeast Ohio Teamsters Organize to Protect Pensions

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:55

April 8, 2014: The Northeast Ohio Committee to Protect Pensions (NOCPP) is organizing to defend retirement security.   

The committee was formed at a pension meeting on March 8 in Richfield, Ohio, and consists of retired and active Teamsters working together to protect our Teamster pensions.

“Our first organizing meeting was very focused, commented Mike Walden, a YRC retiree from Akron Local 24. “There were a few TDU guys and other retired Teamsters who volunteered at our Richfield meeting. We are all working together because we know how important it is to protect our pensions.” Walden arranged the meeting at Post 102 of the Army-Navy Club in Akron.

The committee set up a phone tree and email list to inform other Teamsters. Assignments were made and taken to contact Teamster retiree clubs, Teamster locals in the area, and Congressional offices. The plan is to send delegations to various meetings and offices to inform and advocate around the issue. The committee also decided to investigate the cost of securing rental vans or buses for a trip to Washington to lobby and speak out on pension rights.

The committee discussed a number of goals: educating active and retired Teamsters on the pension issues; building unity among all Teamsters to defend our pensions; make sure that Congress understands the impact of potential pension cuts on the economy; engage the media on this issue; work with the AARP and veteran groups; reach out to other unions and members who are also under attack; and continue to research and explore other alternatives and solutions to pension cuts.

The next meeting is scheduled for Saturday, April 12. If you are interested in getting involved in the Northeast Ohio committee or would like to organize a meeting or committee in your local or area, contact TDU.

Issues: Pension and Benefits
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Did UPS workers protest or just stop working?

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:28
MSNBCApril 8, 2014View the original piece

Two of those workers fired from UPS, one driver and one protestor, Jairo Reyes and Domenick Dedomenico, join Tamron Hall to discuss unions and the way that UPS handled the protests.

Click here to see the video report.

Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Do you think that UPS should rehire the 250 workers?

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:23
MSNBCApril 8, 2014View the original piece

UPS fired 250 Queens drivers after they walked off the job to participate in a 90 minute protest in defense of a long-time employee who was dismissed.

Gut Check: Do you think that UPS should rehire the 250 workers?

Click here to take the poll.


Issues: UPS
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Vermont Bus Drivers Approve Contract, End Strike

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 08:31
Lisa RathkeAssociated PressApril 8, 2014View the original piece

A nearly three-week-long bus drivers' strike in the state's largest county has ended with the approval of a new contract — and a promise of free rides on Friday.

The Chittenden County Transportation Authority board ratified the contract Thursday evening. The bus drivers had overwhelmingly approved the deal earlier in the day.

Read more here from the Associate Press.

Click here to read TDU's story on the strike in the current issue of Teamster Voice.

Categories: Labor News, Unions

Albertsons, Safeway deal advances

Teamsters for a Democratic Union - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 14:10
Pamela RiemenschneiderThe PackerApril 7, 2014View the original piece

The $9.4 billion deal between Safeway and Albertsons owner Cerberus Capital Management is a step closer after no other bidders emerged for the Pleasanton, Calif.-based chain.

The deal would make the combined chain the second largest in the U.S., with 2,400 total stores.

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. has 2,600, but it could be Kroger Co. that benefits from this deal, especially in markets where Safeway and Albertsons overlap the most, said Pewaukee, Wis.-based retail analyst David Livingston.

“Competitors like Kroger and WinCo could not be happier,” he said. “Kroger will probably be the biggest winner in this whole deal. No one shopped Safeway or Albertsons because of price, quality or service, but more that they were an acceptable alternative for convenience shopping. Kroger will pick up that business from disgruntled customers with all the overlap.”

Safeway and Albertsons, particularly in California where they had the most overlap, were underperformers in their market, he said, typically 20% or more below market average in sales per square foot.

“I expect Safeway sales to decline about 15%, which is normal when a below average operator takes over another below average operator,” he said.

Store closures are inevitable where the companies overlap, particularly in California, Arizona, Dallas and other markets in the West.

“Cerberus has had a long time to develop their plan and should breeze through FTC hearings,” he said. “Just like the last big Cerberus acquisition of Albertsons, we saw stores sold or closed by the bushel.”

- See more at: http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/Albertsons-Safeway-deal-ad...

The $9.4 billion deal between Safeway and Albertsons owner Cerberus Capital Management is a step closer after no other bidders emerged for the Pleasanton, Calif.-based chain.

The deal would make the combined chain the second largest in the U.S., with 2,400 total stores.

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. has 2,600, but it could be Kroger Co. that benefits from this deal, especially in markets where Safeway and Albertsons overlap the most, said Pewaukee, Wis.-based retail analyst David Livingston.

“Competitors like Kroger and WinCo could not be happier,” he said. “Kroger will probably be the biggest winner in this whole deal. No one shopped Safeway or Albertsons because of price, quality or service, but more that they were an acceptable alternative for convenience shopping. Kroger will pick up that business from disgruntled customers with all the overlap.”

Safeway and Albertsons, particularly in California where they had the most overlap, were underperformers in their market, he said, typically 20% or more below market average in sales per square foot.

“I expect Safeway sales to decline about 15%, which is normal when a below average operator takes over another below average operator,” he said.

Store closures are inevitable where the companies overlap, particularly in California, Arizona, Dallas and other markets in the West.

“Cerberus has had a long time to develop their plan and should breeze through FTC hearings,” he said. “Just like the last big Cerberus acquisition of Albertsons, we saw stores sold or closed by the bushel.”

- See more at: http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/Albertsons-Safeway-deal-ad...

The $9.4 billion deal between Safeway and Albertsons owner Cerberus Capital Management is a step closer after no other bidders emerged for the Pleasanton, Calif.-based chain.

The deal would make the combined chain the second largest in the U.S., with 2,400 total stores.

Click here to read more at The Packer.

Issues: Grocery
Categories: Labor News, Unions

Licensing Requirments And Work

IBU - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:07
Categories: Unions


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